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Black Girl | Whiteboard: How I landed My Software Engineering Position in 4 Months

donita profile image Donita Updated on ・6 min read
I was debating on writing this article, I wanted to save this story for my first Tech Talk, but I realized this year I needed to concentrate on planting myself as a professional Software Engineer.

Here's the back story of my journey:

So, how did this black girl get a Software Engineering internship at a Fortune 10 Company:

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Get Some Experience

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Throughout the start of my tech journey, I would read tons, I mean tons of articles on how to get my foot in the door. Outside of side projects, the one constant was "teach code". I was a beginner on a scholarship deadline, so doing projects outside of my scholarship projects, just wasn't feasible for me. So, I looked up non profit agencies looking for people to teach code, I signed up and I taught a few classes. I was still a beginner, I sucked at first but I did it all in fear.

Also, take advantage of leadership roles. Apart of my Google Scholarship with Udacity, participating in an online community was apart of the requirement. We had the opportunity to be leaders in that community, I applied and became a JavaScript and Career Student Leader.

These are just some viable options to get your resume atleast looked at 2nd time. Every RECRUITER was impressed by what I did.

Luck Favors the prepared

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Even in college, I had this mindset I wanted to do my best and if it doesn't happen on the timeline that I had projected, it wasn't because I was lazy or missed the mark but because it wasn't meant to be. So, towards the end of my Grow with Google Scholarship at Udacity, it was time for me to get prepared.

I was ahead enough in my projects to dedicate a whole week to career development, because I wanted to be ready. I didn't want to wait until I finished, which so many people did. Something in me knew an opportunity was coming, but I didn't know where that opportunity would come, but I wanted to be ready. "You don't have to get ready, if you stay ready":

So how did I get ready?

  1. Check the landscape: I wanted to see what the tech landscape was in my area, especially when it comes to JR roles. I looked around all the major job boards, city designated slack channels, meetups and job boards. This a good idea because you can job search strategically

  2. Review, Review, Review: Youtube videos, career services, Google and etc, get your Github, LinkedIn, Resume and Cover Letter reviewed.
    Why? If you met a recruiter in the next 2 hours, can you just send all your documents over within a hour or do you have to wait a few days to get back with the recruiter?

Divine Intervention:

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So, if you're not a spiritual/religious person you can skip this section. lol. Once I applied to the internship, I read another round of articles about how to prepare for the interview but I still was lost and I felt like I needed someone personally so that I can ask questions that aren't in the articles on medium. During this process, I never prayed so hard in my life. I really have to attribute God, for the people that I crossed paths with before I started interviewing. They really helped me curate a study path to do well on my white board interview.

Tech Stack'd

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This goes back to the last point, because of my prayers I felt like the Tech Stack'd opportunity just dropped in my lap. I came across an opportunity to join a community led by a Google Engineer by the name of Bria. I mean, there are a lot of communities out there but I just knew I would get what I needed because it was being led by someone who works at a top notched company.

In this community, I could ask any questions regarding the interview process. We had a white boarding workshop with Google Engineers and Recruiters, there are opportunities to sign up for office hours to talk to people in your industry for career and interview guidance. When I tell you it came at the PERFECT time, it's an understatement.

It was perfect because everyone tells you to read Cracking the Coding Interview Book, but listen that thing isn't really for beginners lets be real. In this community, I was able to ask somewhat "silly" questions like "Do I have memorize bubble sort" lol I know silly, but I didn't know lol.

Sidenote: I know I used a women GIF, but there are plenty of men in this slack channel that helped me, but I thought the gif was cute so I used it lol.

Do you want to join?

Tech Stack'd

Research… Research… Research

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I stalked GlassDoor, Google and Reddit constantly. These things won't give you the exact interview questions, but it will give you an idea on how to shape your interview practice.

Behavioral Questions: the behavioral questions will deal with your projects, how you work in teams, attention to detail and etc. Research on what you would be doing on a day-to-day basis and curate your practice question based off that. Like for instance, if you know you'll be working in a team, practice team interview questions. If you know attention to detail is apart of the job description, practice some "attention to detail" questions.

Data Structures & Algorithms I didn't know any data structures or algorithms. like none at all. I tried to do the coding challenges, without learning them and it was a big fail. I started to read every article on them and it failed flat.

So what did I do? I figured out my learning style and study off of that.

Visualization Algorithms.

Grokking Algorithms.


Coding I literally just did coding problems everyday. Some people don't agree with this, but it worked for me because I did so many I started to see a pattern and I also saw my brain changing when it comes to thinking about how to solve a problem. I schemed through Cracking the Coding Interview, it was more advance than I am so it was more of a supplemental, than anything.

WhiteBoarding They are only looking for working solutions. I know people are like if you get it wrong it's okay, but in reality it's not. Someone else might come behind you and get it right with a faster solution and talked through the whole process and you don't want to take that risk. I watched a lot of "WhiteBoarding Videos". Tech Stack'd had a white boarding workshop that help tremendously and Cracking the Coding Interview Author, has a lot of great videos on how to do well on the whiteboard. Go into it as you're working with a team when trying to solve it.

Stand Out

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CONNECT WITH SOMEONE IN THE ORGANIZATION. Don't make it easy for them to forget you or forget your work ethic. Tell your story. You all might have the same projects, but you don't have the same story. Find great questions to ask in the interviews. Not the typical questions either.

sidenote: In my experience, I'm well aware that you can email every person in the community and still not get an opportunity but it's always best to put your best foot forward regardless. You don't ever want to have a "what if" thought. Just do it.

Keep Up the Faith

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This post isn't a step by step guide to get a job, but merely saying when the opportunity comes knocking if you stay ready, you don't have to get ready.

The job search process is hard, tedious and sometimes mental breaking. One person may get that job off of twitter, the other may get a job off of LinkedIn, another may get their job from there network. Everybody story is different. So if one person got this job one way and you didn't.. it's okay!

All you need is one yes!

Discussion (10)

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anthonydmays profile image
Anthony D. Mays • Edited

Well done, @donita ! Thanks for helping to make this information accessible. And clever title (had to read it twice before I got it, lol)!

donita profile image
Donita Author

Thank you! Your blog posts inspired me to do it!

mykalcodes profile image
Mykal Machon • Edited

Congratulations on your internship & great article!

In particular, thank you a million for the "visualizing algorithms" link...

Im taking a course on algorithms at University right now and ive been struggling the last week with AVL trees. After playing around with the graphical tool on that website I think it's clicked! Stoked!

donita profile image
Donita Author

Thank you! Awwwww no problem! It literally changed my life as well! lol

donita profile image
Donita Author • Edited

I used it as a play on words and because of the percentage of black women in STEM :)

ben profile image
Ben Halpern


sn0n profile image
Rob Foraker

Did you pay for the Udacity course? That price tag has me thinking it's not worth it.. most of the information is free online, I know you don't get the cert, but man...

donita profile image
Donita Author

Nope. Google and Udacity had a partnership, where they awarded people scholarships to learn web development or android development. I was one of the Grow with Google Scholars.